Are small businesses using social media effectively?

Are you a small business owner who’s not using social media? Well, if you are, there’s a good chance you’re doing it wrong. If you aren’t, you might be missing out on a key marketing tactic and a huge customer base.

According to an article from USA Today, nearly half of 1,200 small business owners surveyed by online small business network Manta said they spent more time updating social media in 2013 than they did in 2012, while just 7 percent said they spend less time.

This is not surprising if you’ve taken a look at any small business websites lately, most of which include a link to at least one form of social media – Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. Of the seven “small business” craft breweries in Chicago that I’ve looked at, all have a website with an icon or message encouraging people to connect with them on Facebook, one of which uses Facebook as the landing page from its Web page. In addition, all have a Twitter account, two have a blog and one is also on Google+.

But, as the Manta survey found, it’s not enough just to “be on Facebook,” with 61 percent of small businesses not earning the return on their investment for this type of social media marketing. “Just thinking that Facebook alone will send droves of customers to your doorstep is a mistake a lot of people make,” said Stephanie Schwab, CEO of Crackerjack Marketing. These small businesses are not only challenged with regularly creating new content that compels users to “like” them or follow them, but they are also challenged with getting these potential or current customers away from their computers and their own social media feeds and into the shops, restaurants, or, breweries, in this case.

Just as the USA Today survey found, many companies set up social media accounts “without having any clue about what they want to happen. Ask the person in charge, and the answer will be something terrifyingly vague, like ‘to engage with our audience,’ which doesn’t mean diddly-squat,” according to Jill Duffy, author of “15 Social Media Tips for Small Businesses.” Duffy advises small businesses to write down the results they want from social media and identify the channels that would be most effective.

One example of an effective social media campaign is Revolution Brewing, which operates a Facebook and Twitter, in addition to its

website.

beer-advertisement

The brewery used both its Twitter and Facebook accounts to remind users of the May 8 launch of a new IPA, linking back to the information on its website.

Revolution-Brewing-Twitter

On Facebook, the company further connected with its customers with the line “Mug Club members, you know what to do.” This makes the club members feel as if they are almost part of the company, or a “regular,” while also intriguing those who are not members to find out more or what they are missing.

Haymarket-Brewing-Twitter

All of the craft breweries (Dry Hop, Atlas Brewing, Finch’s Beer Company, Pipeworks Brewing Company, Revolution Brewing,Haymarket and Begyle Brewing Co.) have a Facebook and Twitter. So, in this industry, it would not make sense if one of these small breweries’ social media channels was not Facebook or Twitter. But, Atlas Brewing also maintains a Google+ account. In this case, the company needs to ask itself, is the time I spend connecting with customers on here worth not spending time improving other social media channels? Are we reaching new customers here? If not, perhaps time would be better spent building a larger Facebook and Twitter presence, as these social media channels directly compete with others in the industry.

Another tip Duffy offers, which may or may not be obvious: Don’t push only your own content.  A small business, not even open yet, that does a good job of this via social media is Dry Hop. This craft brewery is set to open in Lakeview at the end of the spring, but it is already connecting with potential customers and making a name on Facebook and Twitter.  In its Facebook posts with updates about its progress, menu and beer, the company notes and tags relevant other businesses or people, such as in its post about where the furniture was acquired.

outdoor-furniture

The brewery also connects with customers by sharing other projects and efforts it is involved in and other companies it works with (for example, a Clean Water campaign with the National Resources Defense Council).

Clean-water-facebook

By doing so, Dry Hop is not just boring its social media followers with narcissistic updates on its products, which are usually clear advertisements for products only, but showing followers that it supports other causes and provides a sense of the company’s “personality” and what it stands for. Using social media to promote other content than just your own is also beneficial because it allows for connecting with an entirely different customer base that still may be interested in your services (in this case, Dry Hop’s beer).

Then, small businesses must set themselves apart on social media from the millions of other companies on these networks also trying to attract and retain new customers. Although aimed at lawyers, Edith Curry’s “The Secret Skill of Relationship Marketing” reminds us that first of all, marketing is about forming relationships. Social media provides a range of channels through which to set your business apart from others, highlight your strengths and show customers how you can uniquely benefit them, whether it’s providing legal services to get them out of jail or providing good beer to get them drunk and order more. Social media platforms allow small businesses to form relationships with potential customers, around the country and world, which they may never otherwise have had an opportunity to reach. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs, which allow for comments from users, can serve as a means for identifying client needs, as Curry suggests.

Social media platforms can be extremely beneficial for small businesses to promote their services or products to a wide audience they otherwise may never be able to reach. Some businesses rely on social media to inform customers about their business, like Finch’s, whosewebsite only serves to redirect visitors to Facebook after confirming their age is over 21 (which may be limiting if a potential customer does not have a social media account), but provides no other information for the company.finch-beer

Some businesses, like Dry Hop, use social media to build a customer base before opening, while some others, like Revolution, use social media to promote and launch new products. Whatever the main goal, small businesses need to identify a clear strategy and the most effective channels for their social media use, ensure content is engaging and updated regularly, and remember that social media channels are merely a means of connecting to customers to promote their product amongst the millions of other small businesses doing the same. Customers will not come or remain unless they are engaged, like the image that the company portrays and reap some sort of benefit from this engagement on social media – all of which can be achieved if social media is employed correctly as a marketing tactic.

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2 thoughts on “Are small businesses using social media effectively?

  1. Pingback: How Do the Top Nonprofits Use Social Media? | WRD 525

  2. Pingback: Yes, your craft beer is awesome, but talk about something else on social media | WRD 525

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